Barking up the right tree: The benefits of running with your dog

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As more and more of us are stuck spending a lot of time at home and away from the gym or track, there’s more reason than ever to head out for a run – and taking your furry little friend with you can make it even more enjoyable.

Lockdown has seen an increase in both running and dog-ownership, so why not put the two together and make the most out of the time you have with your pet?

There are a number of benefits to bringing your dog along with you when you go running. Here’s everything you need to know about taking your pooch out with you, and why it can be great for both you and your dog.

What You Should Know

Make sure your dog can keep up!

It should go without saying, but if your dog isn’t suitable for the long, endurance running that you enjoy, then don’t drag them out of the comfort of your nice warm home to huff and puff behind you for an hour.

Much of this will depend on the breed of your dog, with some having long-existing genetic health conditions that may make them unable to handle long periods of exercise. Any short-nosed dogs, like pugs and french bulldogs, for example, are probably best suited to much shorter distances, while Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Huskies would be better suited to running across longer times.

It may also be dependant on the health conditions of your dog and their age. If you have an old dog with health complications, running for long periods is likely not advised. It’s important to make sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your pet, so check their health and ensure they’re suitable before going straight into your miles.

Start slow and steady

Stick to a smaller series of runs, to begin with. Going head-first into a 5K or 10K is likely to put you in your dog’s bad books — if they can even keep up with you for that long.

Train them by running short distances and gradually build up – like you would for a beginner runner. Try simple, easy routes and start slow, building into faster movements and longer distances over time. While you might be training for one, it’s not a race for your dog!

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Don’t take it too seriously

It’s not a competition to your dog, so it’ll be hard for any runner to do some serious, competitive training while your pooch is staring up at you panting its lungs out.

Running with your dog will sit on the more relaxed side of the running scale, and that’s not a bad thing – it can still be enjoyable to head out for joy-runs with your pet, and gives them their daily exercise as well as proving good practice for you too.

Be mindful of the weather

If it’s really outdoors, lots of dogs will struggle to keep their energy levels at a consistently high, meaning they’ll find it difficult to keep up with you, while you may find a stop-start run frustrating for yourself. Alternatively, if it’s freezing cold with ice and snow covering the ground, these aren’t exactly ideal conditions for a dog either.

Be careful to ensure your dog is suited and trained to cope with the weather you take them out into for a run – especially as it may be longer and more intense than their average evening walk.

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The Benefits of Running With Your Dog

Your senses are heightened

When you’re out running with your dog, you’re taking care of something other than yourself. Therefore, you’re more switched on to your surroundings, which could be harmful to you and your pet, and means that you are potentially more in the zone than you would be if you were just by yourself.

Take advantage of that! Your dog is there to run with you, and if it helps you to stay focused and safe, then you’re running will be all the better for it.

It’s physically good

For both you and your dog, too! Running with your dog might be more relaxed for you compared to any serious training you’re doing, but for your dog, this will be the highlight of their day!

Running with your dog will use different muscles than just going for a walk would. Especially as dogs have a certain amount of energy that they are supposed to burn off per day (dependant on their respective breeds), running provides an outlet that increases the intensity of walking or a game of fetch and can lead them to have better behaviour due to not having too much energy stored up that may translate to bad deeds.

Your dog will have to keep up and help your pup to maintain a healthy weight and stave off commonly dangerous heart and lung conditions that often plague exercise-starved dogs.

And it’s mentally good too!

And, of course, this filters into the mental aspect of things too. Everyone knows that dogs love their walks, but they might just love running even more!

Like humans, running can help dogs to feel less anxious and stressed. Happy dogs are also proven to live happier and healthier lives, and running provides a means to keep your dog happy as they jog alongside their owner.

Plus, dogs get to see new things, meet other dogs, and have a great time outdoors when you bring them out for a run. In short, happy dogs = runners’ dogs!

Refresh your training

If your schedule is already packed with heavy, intense training, then a light run around with your dog may just be the tonic to refresh your body and give you some enjoyment in your running.

On the other hand, dogs are known for being quite sporadic, so you’ll have to react to their movement and behaviour as you run, which could lead to quick changes of pace and perhaps even an increase in speed and intensity.

Either way, running with your dog will offer something different to your average solo training session for sure.

Keeps your consistency

Dogs don’t understand your schedule interruptions. As such, they’ll keep you honest and will be hoping every time you get close to the front door, you’ll be reaching for their leash.

Use this — your dog can keep you motivated and consistent. You’ll need to walk them every day, so why not turn that walk into a run? It forces you to have a set plan and stick to it – not just for yourself, but your dog too. And come on, you can’t go letting your dog down now, can you?

Dogs have a runner’s high too!

Want to know something crazy? Dogs really do experience runners high, just like humans!

A study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that dogs also show an increase in anandamide (that’s the same thing that runners get when experiencing a runners’ high) after a good old stint on the treadmill.

So, if you want to keep your dog happy in their health and brain, get them running with you!

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